Kevin Baggett and Rider started second half of MAAC season with win at Saint Peter's. (Photo courtesy of Big Apple Buckets)
Some takeaways and nuggets from Rider's 58-49 win at Saint Peter's, the 14th of the season for the Broncs and eighth in MAAC play:
- Junior Fortunat was a key off the bench. The senior, who contributed nine points in 15 minutes, provided Kevin Baggett with some much-needed insurance in relief of an ineffective Matt Lopez, who was limited to eight points and seven rebounds. "Junior really ignited us," Baggett said of his Canadian forward, "and I wanted to stay and reward him for that. I just rode the hot hand."
- The low-scoring affair, which showcased Rider's ownership of the MAAC's best defensive efficiency, was something the coaching staff anticipated. "These guys are really good defensively," Baggett complimented toward Saint Peter's. "We knew this wasn't going to be an easy game by no means. We talked about just needing to sit down and defend, and I thought we did a great job of doing that."
- On what he learned from the rematch with John Dunne's Peacocks, Baggett said: "I continue to learn from this team that they find ways to win, they continue to pull for each other and grit it out."
- When reminded of Quinnipiac coach Tom Moore's assessment earlier this month that the MAAC race consisted of "Iona and everyone else," Baggett offered an honest rebuttal. "I think there are a number of teams that have a chance to win," he admitted, "and I think we're one of those teams. Obviously, we lost to Iona twice, so we won't have the chance to meet up with those guys until the tournament, so the only thing we can do is take it game by game and control whatever we can control."
- In the midst of a 10-3 run to close out the game, Rider received a favorable momentum swing when Shawn Valentine was fouled hard by Elias Desport, a play that lead official Jeff Anderson correctly ruled an intentional foul. giving Valentine two foul shots; of which he made both, and the ensuing possession to the Broncs, who iced the game at the free throw line to offset a 19-for-30 effort to an extent. "Shawn stepping up and making those free throws really swung it our way," Baggett said of the clutch foul shots.
- Even after overcoming a suffocating Rider defense enough to where his team could impose its own style and dictate the tempo for most of the second half, John Dunne had mixed feelings about what turned out to be a narrow defeat. "I thought we had great energy," he said. "Throughout 40, (minutes) we really tried to sit down and guard, but ultimately down the stretch, they got a bunch of paint scorers under the basket, and we just need to do a better job of team defense."
- When comparing Thursday night's result with Saint Peter's first game against Rider, Dunne praised the improvement in effort. "I thought the effort was much better than it was down there," he stated. "We just gave way too many easy baskets the first time around. Rider's a very good team, they're definitely in the top third of our league."
- To match Kevin Baggett's view that the MAAC is more than just Iona, Dunne countered by saying: "We can beat anybody on any given night. We've just got to learn to have a little more poise at the end of games."
- The matchup of stars ultimately became a war of attrition, as after Rider held Marvin Dominique and Desi Washington to a combined 16 points, Saint Peter's responded by limiting the Broncs' two leading scorers; Lopez and Jimmie Taylor, to just ten total markers.
- While Rider (14-8, 8-3 MAAC) heads to Albany to face Siena on Monday, Saint Peter's (10-12, 4-7) has a much shorter turnaround, playing their second game in three days this Saturday, when the Peacocks take on Iona at the Hynes Center. The showdown with the Gaels will be the first meeting between the schools since February 12 of last year, when Saint Peter's battled back from an 11-point deficit by tying the game in improbable fashion before A.J. English's three-pointer with seven-tenths of a second remaining in regulation allowed the Gaels to escape. "We just have to have that mentality that we're going to go in with confidence," Dunne cautioned, "and that we're going to do the things that help us win. It's a quick turnaround, they have a whole week's rest to our one day. It's not going to be easy, but at the end of the day, man, we've just got to strap up and play."